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Norwich Heart, Heritage Economic & Regeneration Trust

Henry Howard

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey  -  and Surrey House, Norwich.

Henry Howard (1516/17 - 1547) was a proud member of a distinguished house who, although never a Peer, left his mark on the City of Norwich. He was the son of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and the grandson of the 2nd Duke who brought great renown to the house by his victory over the Scots at the Battle of Flodden.  But fame and disgrace often walked hand in hand in these difficult Tudor years and Henry's other grandfather was Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, executed for treason in 1521.   Henry too was to die on the block, in spite of having been cup-bearer to the King and a Knight of the Garter.

Royal connections

Henry was born at Hunsdon, Hertfordshire but spent much of his young years at Windsor, in company with Henry VIII's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond.  They became close friends and later brothers-in-law. Henry became Earl of Surrey in 1524 when his grandfather died and his father became Duke of Norfolk. The new Duke saw his son as ideally suited to become tutor and guide to Henry Fitzroy and thereby gain influence near to the throne. There is no doubt Henry had developed into a most engaging and well-rounded gentleman, he was learned in modern languages as well as Latin - and in the skills and ideals of chivalry. Indeed in 1532, he accompanied Anne Boleyn, the King and The Duke of Richmond to France, and had then stayed there for more than a year as a member of the entourage of Francis I of France. Neither did the Duke's ambition end with Henry Fitzroy, in 1529 he hoped for a marriage between his son Henry and the Princess Mary.  This was a suggested alliance at first advanced by his first cousin, Anne Boleyn, but she later turned against the idea.

Henry's abilities included military prowess, so well exhibited by his father and grandfather: in 1536 he was sent to deal with the Lincolnshire Rising.  A great deal happened this year, Henry had married Lady Frances de Vere, daughter of the Earl of Oxford and his first son was born, Thomas, later to become the 4th Duke of Norfolk. Queen Anne Boleyn was executed after being found guilty of treason and Henry Fitzroy died at the age of 17 and was buried at Thetford.

Norwich houses

Mr. E. A. Kent has written of the three Howard residences in Norwich: a great house in the parish of St. John Maddermarket, known as the Duke's Palace; a residence within the site of St. Leonard's Priory in the hamlet of Thorpe; and a commodious house in Newgate within St Stephen's parish.  This last house was called Surrey House after Henry and Newgate became Surrey Street which it remains to this day. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography records Henry being involved in 1545 and earlier in "...building at ruinous expense Surrey House at Mount Surrey on a hill outside Norwich".  This is obviously the site of St. Leonard's Priory, on the dissolution of which the property went to the Crown and was granted to Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, in 1538.   Richard Le Strange writes of Henry building a "sumptuous house which he called Surrey House, as the hill on which it is built is called Mount Surrey".

The house in Surrey Street was a fine one, the site of which today is occupied by the more modern magnificence of the Marble Hall, more properly also known as Surrey House, the Norwich headquarters of the famous insurance society taking its name from the city in which it was established. The Norwich author, R.H. Mottram, knew the building in his youth, and played in its rooms before it was demolished in 1901  -  to make way for the present building. He says, " Surrey House was a good example of the expansion of the old simple hall.  One entered its courtyard in which a coach and four could have turned, and many must have done, under an archway from the street. It was cobbled, and the wings of the house retained many of the lattice windows, and a roof of wonderful madder-pink tiles".

Kent speaks of Henry as "...brilliant and headstrong", and says it was claimed Henry was intending to seize control as soon as the King should die and have dominance over the young Edward VI.  The King was frail and approaching his last illness but not so frail as to not order the arrest of Henry and his father, the Duke.  Kent goes on to say , " In the Record Office can be seen the charges against the pair in the hand-writing of  Chancellor Wriothesley and underlined by the King in a tremulous hand.  They commenced with questions by what authority the Royal Arms had been borne by the accused in the first quartering of the coat of arms; and as to the meaning of a statement made by Surrey, that if the King should die who should have rule of the Prince (afterwards Edward VI) but his (i.e. Surrey's) father, or himself".  There was further damning heraldic evidence in some glass roundels incorporated in the great house (built by the Duke for his son) in Surrey Street.


Both father and son were found guilty and Henry Howard was beheaded on Tower Hill on the 19th January, 1547.  His father's execution was fixed for the 29th January but he was saved by the King dying the day before and it was not thought the new reign should start with the execution of a prominent peer.  Henry was first buried at All Hallows, Barking but in 1614, his son Henry Earl of Northampton, caused his father's remains to be moved to St. Michael's Church, Framlingham, where he lies in an alabaster tomb.

So died a man of many gifts, not least the literary.  Henry and his friend, Sir Thomas Wyatt were the first English poets to write in the sonnet form later to be used by Shakespeare, indeed Howard and Wyatt are known as the "Fathers of the English Sonnet". Such things became of no account set against the Howards' overweening ambition and a little kingly paranoia.


  • Kent, E.A.    Norfolk Archaeology.  Vol. 24.   1930
  • Oxford Dictionary of  National Biography, Vol. 28.  Hoppell and Hutcheson
  • Le Strange, Richard.    "Monasteries of Norfolk", Yates,  King's Lynn, 1973.
  • Mottram, R.H.  "If Stones Could Speak", Museum Press, London, 1953.
  • Kent, as above.


Andy Anderson

September 2007